The Failed CCTV Project

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Bala Mohammed, minister of FCT
Mohammed

Nigerians have begun to ask questions as to what has happened to the media-hyped National Public Security Communication System project following incessant Boko Haram bomb attacks in Abuja and other cities in the north

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Jul. 14, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

THE three bomb attacks on Nyanya-Maraba and Wuse 2, in April, May and June this year, have exposed the porous state of security in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital city. The attacks have also resurrected the controversy over the National Public Security Communication System, NPSCS; otherwise known as Abuja close circuit television, CCTV, project.

Since the attack, there have been questions from various quarters about the project which reportedly cost the government more than $470 million. The project, which was initiated by the late President Umaru Yar’adua, was conceived to help security agencies in the federal capital territory, FCT, battle the growing state of insecurity in the federal capital. The multi-billion Naira project, handled by ZTE Corporation, a Chinese firm was said to have been completed in 2012.

By its concept and design, the project was meant to provide voice, video and data, using the Code Division Multiple Access technology to enable security agencies to combat terrorism and other violent crimes in Abuja, Lagos and other cities across the nation.

But despite the wide publicity that followed the installation of the CCTV cameras and other equipment, there is no indication anywhere that the project has succeeded. Instead, there is a palpable feeling everywhere that the project has failed since there has not been any respite in the activities of terrorists in the city. What is more worrisome is the report that some of the installed cameras and other equipment have been vandalized. So far, none of the cameras is said to have detected let alone pre-empt the attacks which occurred in various parts of the city.

Between 2010 when the project was initiated and now, Abuja has come under seven deadly attacks which left scores of people dead and properties worth billions of naira destroyed. The first bomb explosion in the city happened on October 1, 2010, during the country’s 50th independence anniversary celebrations. The attack in   which 10 people died, was later discovered to have been carried out by members of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND.

The Independence Day bombing was followed by the police headquarters bombing on June 26, 2011 in which two people died. The explosion happened when a suicide bomber drove a bomb-laden car which he rammed into the parking lot of Police headquarters, Abuja, shortly after a convoy of Hafiz Ringim, the then Inspector-General of Police, entered the complex.

On August 26, 2011, another suicide bomber rammed a bomb-laden car into the United Nations building along Diplomatic Drive in Abuja, killing about 20 persons. Abuja residents were still trying to come to terms with these developments when the terrorists struck again.  On April 26, 2012, a suicide bomber attacked the Abuja office of Thisday Newspapers, killing one person in the process. After the Thisday blast, there was an apparent hiatus in the activities of terrorists within the capital city until the dawn attack at the Nyanya motor park on April 14.

What has given life to the CCTV camera controversy is that none of the perpetrators these attacks were picked up by any of the CCTV cameras installed in various parts of the city. The development has prompted many people to question the genuineness of the project.

Lydia Nwafor, a civil servant, who was close to Emab plaza when the last explosion occurred, said “it is very annoying that after spending such large amount installing these cameras, they are not working. We know the cameras will not stop terrorism but it will, at least, help us in the fight against it. If Abuja were like other capital cities in the world, we should, at least, track the movement of these criminals killing innocent people.”

A man identified as Emmanuel, a shop owner, who was also close to the scene of the attack, told a newspaper that the bomb blast could have been foiled if the cameras were functional. “When you look at these kind of attacks, they are attacks that can only be avoided by prevention. Once, they have occurred, there is nothing you can do about it. I understand that the CCTV cameras were installed in all the nooks and crannies of Abuja but they are not working. If they were, the security officials would have seen the car and intercepted it before this explosion happened.”

When Realnews went round some of the places where the cameras were installed, it was difficult to tell whether or not they were working. The usual red light that is very visible in other CCTV cameras installed in places like shopping malls was off. In some of the streets, the poles bearing the cameras have also been vandalised while many of those mounted along busy expressways have been crashed into by vehicles.

But a police officer at Utako police post, who did not want his name mentioned because he is not authorised to speak on such issues, said that the cameras were working. He added that the operation room of the CCTV camera is located at the police headquarters building in Abuja.

“They are working. May be we are not making use of them the way we ought to but nobody has any evidence to say they are not working. I can tell you that the operation room is located at the police headquarters and there are people there monitoring everything going on.”

If it is true that the cameras are functioning, do the people in the operation room knowledgeable on how to operate them? With no end in sight to terrorist attacks in the Abuja, Nigerians are calling for an effective use of the CCTV cameras which were installed with tax payers’ money.

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